Graeme McDowell signed for a one-over par round of 73 as Victor Perez took a one-stroke lead after the opening day of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. The Frenchman is chasing history at the fourth and final Rolex Series event of the year as he aims to become the first player from France to be crowned Race to Dubai Champion.
McDowell will enter the second round trailing Perez by six strokes after a quiet day on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. Two bogeys to the turn in an outward half of 38, McDowell posted his one and only birdie of the day at the par-4 11th and sits in mid division in a tie for 36th at one-over.
There were plenty of good scores out there on Thursday, as 28-year-old Perez proved. Perez has already enjoyed two runner-up finishes in Rolex Series events this year, with a top-15 result in the other, helping him to his current position in sixth spot in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex. He also has one European Tour victory under his belt after claiming last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and he is in the driving seat for a second victory and a maiden Rolex Series win after carding six birdies on the way to a five-under par 67.
“As always on these tough courses, tough pins today, they really put up a good setup with some of the pins, three or four from the edges,” said Perez, who has JP Fitzgerald on the bag again this week. “JP has been here a few times and he still didn’t see some of them. It was just about holing a few good putts, driving the ball well, doing everything fairly well but obviously making a few putts, which you need those type of days.
“In the position I’m in, I have nothing to lose. I have everything to gain. So for me it’s really a going-for-it mentality that I have to keep for four rounds. Obviously you still have to play proper golf and hit the right shots and sometimes take your medicine, but again, I have really nothing to lose, and it’s a matter of making a lot of birdies.”
Robert MacIntyre, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Erik van Rooyen share second spot on four under par, while two-time Major winner Martin Kaymer, three-time Rolex Series winner Tyrrell Hatton and 2017 Race to Dubai Champion Tommy Fleetwood are joined by young Finnish star Sami Välimäki on three under.
“I didn’t drive it great today, so I was always in a bit of trouble here and there, but we took our punishment,” said MacIntyre. “When I’m in position I’m attacking pins, and that’s what you’ve got to do. If you’re in position, you go at it. If not, you play the percentages and try and make par almost. Other than that, it’s a golf course that I like. It suits my eye, so just going to try and keep doing what I’m doing.
“I think it’s all about having that complete game, try and almost have a complete game. I feel my putting has come on leaps and bounds in the last eight weeks. My stats were horrific at the start of the year, but now they’re coming on, and last week I had some of the best – well, I did have the best putting round I’ve had in my life. So if you’ve got the putter going, it doesn’t matter where you hit it, you’re going to hole them. That’s the attitude I’m taking out there the last couple weeks.”
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